A weekly outreach to our friends and colleagues in Canada
Weekly Washington Wrap
Trudeau Trump and Tweaks – So after all the endless, boundless, breathless speculation about what would happen when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally came face to face with President Donald Trump – what actually happened was pretty easy to predict. The two had a cordial, warm and productive meeting (the same as Trump has had with the other world leaders he’s met at the White House.) While they disagree on some issues (note: it’s a US-Canada thing and long predates these two!) Trudeau was gracious to Trump heading into last year’s election and Trump did jump start the Keystone XL project on day two of his new administration, so there was lots of common ground to focus on this week: trade and middle class jobs with a special emphasis on empowering women in the workforce. The President pledged only “tweaks” to NAFTA when it comes to Canada while saying he’d focus instead on the “unfair” US commercial relationship with Mexico. In more good meeting news, yesterday, President Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a relationship that is expected to be far more warm and cordial than it was under the prior administration.
Cabinet Check – The US Senate continued this week (albeit slowly) to confirm President Trump’s Cabinet picks – continuing to sharply question the character and integrity of the nominees. Nonetheless, Steve Mnuchin was confirmed to be Treasury Secretary on a 53-47 vote. But in a rare display of bipartisanship, Dr. David Shulkin was confirmed to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs on a 100-0 vote, and Linda McMahon was confirmed to be Administrator of the Small Business Administration on an 81-19 vote. The bruising process, however, proved to be too much for fast-food executive Andrew Puzder to overcome. Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary withdrew his nomination on Wednesday as even some Republican senators turned against him questioning his business tactics and issues related to a divorce.
Security Switch -- President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned Monday due to controversy surrounding his contacts with Russia and for misrepresenting facts about his conversation to Vice President Mike Pence. The president has tapped retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg to temporarily serve as security adviser until a new nominee can be confirmed. Meanwhile, Democrats are charging that the Trump campaign team had inappropriate ties to Russia in the lead-up to the US election and are calling for extensive investigations. Republicans are concerned that a group of national security bureaucrats and former Obama officials opposed to Trump are selectively leaking highly sensitive law enforcement information to undermine the elected government. This was virtually unheard of in prior administrations and has many deeply troubled at the prospect that America’s intelligence community is being utilized to take down its own bureaucrats.
Just Make It Up -- On Monday, the New York Times, Newsmax, Democrat Congressman Elijah Cummings and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi all fell for a bogus Twitter account parodying Michael Flynn. In a breathless news conference to respond to the fake tweet from an unverified account that has false Flynn suggesting a broader conspiracy to his resignation, Cummings and Pelosi call for public hearings because of the “inference” that more people are to “blame.” The Times later apologized for its “editing” mistake in reporting fake news. The real Michael Flynn twitter account had this to say: “The failing @nytimes, @NancyPelosi & @RepCummings issued statements based on 100% FAKE news. We expect more from our media & politicians!”
Sorry Times – Speaking of the New York Times being sorry, the NYT reporter that referred to First Lady Melania Trump as "a hooker" has apologized. Jacob Bernstein wrote on Twitter this week that he wants to “take ownership” of a “mistake” he made in repeating the disgusting and “unfounded rumors” about the First Lady and was careful to add that he didn’t want his “hooker” characterization of Mrs. Trump to reflect poorly on his colleagues. The son of famous Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein and the late screenwriter Nora Ephron, Jacob Bernstein, who is a feature reporter for the newspaper, made the gross remark in a private conversation with model Emily Ratajkowski at a party Sunday night. She took to Twitter and called him out anonymously for “slut shaming.” The First Lady thanked Ratajkowski for standing up and supporting women.
Talkin’ Trump Via Technology
Whew! You’d think that David Wilkins is the only Republican to have served as United States Ambassador to Canada working in Washington, DC these days.
Oh, wait! He is!
Perhaps it’s that unique perspective that made him a go-to guy this week for our friends in the media – including those as far away as London and Hong Kong – looking for perspective on Prime Minister Trudeau’s meeting with President Trump.
Thanks to the luxury of technology, Wilkins who was working away in his Greenville, South Carolina office on Monday was still able to connect with viewers across the world via Skype and FaceTime.
Wilkins chats with a London-based BBC anchor from the comfort of his South Carolina office!
It was a busy couple of days. Wilkins spoke with among others, CNN, CBC, CTV, BNN, the Canadian Press, The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Reuters, Bloomberg, as well as numerous radio and local TV stations from across Canada and the US.
His message was the same: On day two of this presidency, Donald Trump approved the Keystone XL pipeline project left languishing for seven long years under the Obama administration before it was rejected – despite Obama’s friendship with Trudeau. The Trump administration understands and supports Canada’s strategic importance to the US and appreciates the bilateral relationship. As Wilkins told BNN, “I think the prime minister has played it exactly right: he was very reserved in his comments leading up to the election, he’s been very positive in comments since the election. In my opinion, the emphasis ought to be on jobs and job creation: thank the president for giving the greenlight to [Keystone XL] and look for successes to build on.”
Back in DC
Wilkins rounded out his week back in Washington, DC with a bevy of meetings. Among them it was great to catch up with Alberta’s representative in Washington, Gitane DeSilva, and with Congressman Tom Rice (R-SC).
They Said What?
- “Why isn’t the headline: ‘Officials Say No Evidence of Cooperation Betw Trump Campaign and Russia’ – as story states. nytimes.com,’” – Tweet by former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer regarding a New York Times story and headline alleging nefarious ties between Trump allies and the Russians leading into the US election before readers find out in the third paragraph of that Times story officials have absolutely "no evidence of such cooperation" with the Russians.
- "There is an absolutely frenzied and concerted attempt to delegitimize, sabotage and destroy the Trump presidency before it’s even started. I think that is un-American,” – British journalist and former CNN broadcaster Piers Morgan yesterday on Fox News’ Hannity regarding what he says is the media’s unfair treatment of the Trump administration.
- “In the last three news conferences, Wolf, all of the questions to the American news media have been handled by conservative press, and I think, Wolf, there’s no other way to describe it but the fix is in,” – CNN’s Jim Acosta lamenting with anchor Wolf Blitzer the President's picks for who gets to ask him questions.
- “There are two stories. One is that the internal dysfunction in the Trump White House, the fact that Flynn lied internally was untrustworthy. But the other story is the scandal of these leaks. Look, we cannot have our intelligence agencies eavesdropping on Americans and releasing it to the press. We have extremely elaborate procedures when we eavesdrop on, say, and ambassadors from other countries, which we do all the time. Everyone does. Everyone knows it. When the conversation involves an American, there are extremely strict procedures to blur the identity, to hide the identity and to protect the information coming from the American. This is the exact opposite of that and it is scary because it means everybody who communicates with a foreigner is subject to being exposed by his own government. You can't have that,” – Columnist and analyst Charles Krauthammer on Fox News regarding the resignation of General Michael Flynn and allegations that entrenched government bureaucrats are working to undermine the new government.
- “A happily anticlimactic — if not instantly forgotten — summit reminded once more that Canada does not loom quite as large in the American attention span as Canadians have a tendency to expect. While that might occasionally wound our ego, it remains an asset to our interests,” – J.J. McCullough, a political commentator and cartoonist from Vancouver, writing in the Washington Post on the Trudeau-Trump meeting this week.
If you are interested in the possibility of having Ambassador Wilkins speak at an event, please contact Christy Cox at Christy.Cox@nelsonmullins.com or call 803.255.9470.
The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.